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Golf - What muscles am I using?

Many golfers are interested in improving their swing, but what if your swing could be better by simply improving the flexibility in your muscles? But which muscles contribute to your swing and your overall game? This blog is here to not only establish them but associate it to the motions that you go through when trying to land that perfect hole in one or a placing those regular birdies. The breakdown of the swing will be as follows:

  • The back swing: from the address of the ball to the top of the back swing.

  • The Forward swing: this is the early part of the down swing, from the top of the back swing to club being in a horizontal position.

  • Acceleration: from the horizontal position of the club to the impact

  • Early follow through: from impact to a horizontal club.

  • Late follow through: from the horizontal club to the completion of the swing.

This will help associate the muscles to the motions and further understand any areas which may be tight, rigid or even sore.


Upper Body The primary muscles in the upper body when performing a full golf swing are in the shoulders and back muscles. These muscles, not only allow the golfer to maintain control over the club but by having flexibility it allows for a deeper, and when required a more powerful down swing.

Pectorals Major This muscle is also known as the chest muscle. It extends from the sternum to the shoulder joint on each side of the chest and helps the shoulder flex and the arm extend. It is vital for rotation and a ensuring a smooth, effective golf swing. Breaking the swing down further into different phases of the swing shows us how and when these muscles are active. There are three phases where the pectoral muscle has an impact:

  1. The forward element of the swing, when the muscle is active on both sides

  2. The acceleration of the swing, when again the muscles is active of both sides

  3. The easy follow through is when it changes, at this point the pectoral muscle on the right-hand side is far more active than the one on the left-hand side.

Trapezius The trapezius is a muscle that starts at the base of your neck, goes across your shoulders and extends to the middle of your back. It helps you move your head, neck, arms, shoulders and torso. Although not heavily involved in the swing motion it does have a small involvement on the left-hand side of your body. However more importantly, by being a large muscle it provides stability. Latissimus Dorsi (lats) This muscle extends from underneath the armpit to the mid-level of the back, connecting the ribs in the thoracic area and the scapula (shoulder blade). It is the widest most powerful muscle in your back. Working in conjunction with the pectoralis major, it helps the arm to adduct (move toward the body), to rotate and extend, all muscle movements that are essential to perform a golf swing. During the backswing in order to optimise your position it requires shoulder abduction (moving away from the body), shoulder flexion and shoulder external rotation. If you have tight lats, it will affect your ability to maintain posture in the backswing, as well as the ability to rotate the shoulder and then follow through the swing.


Your core is the group of trunk and hip muscles. The trunk muscles include: the rectus abdominis, external abdominal oblique, internal abdominal oblique and transversus abdominis. The hip muscles include: gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, and tensor fasciae latae. Theses muscles are extremely important because they maintain proper posture and protect the body's inner organs. They are also crucial to most athletic endeavors, in relation to golf they stabilise the entire body throughout the swing. Although the swing motion is initiated by the pelvic muscles the core must remain flexible and strong to aid the movement, control and the momentum.

The most important of all the muscles within the core is: the external abdominal obliques. Located along the side of the torso, covering the sides of the ribs from under the arm to the crest of the hip. These muscles help rotate the torso. The back is the driving force behind a golf swing, which helps you keep the ball on the fairway or onto the green.

Rectus abdominis – also known as the abs muscle, is a long muscle of the anterior abdominal wall extending from the rib cage to the pubic bone. In those with low body fat, it is clearly visible beneath the skin forming the 'six pack'.

Internal abdominal oblique - is a broad and thin muscle found on the lateral (away from the middle of the body) side of the abdomen, it forms one of the layers of the lateral abdominal wall along with external oblique on the outer side and transverse abdominis on the inner side

Transversus abdominis - is the deepest of the abdominal muscles. It extends between the ribs and the pelvis, wrapping around the trunk from front to back. The fibers of this muscle run horizontally, providing postural support as well as containing all the organs inside the trunk.

We will look further into the hip muscles when we address the lower part of the body.


The shoulders are an important muscle in the golf swing because they maintain control and help create the speed of the club through the ball. Within the shoulder there are many integrate ligaments muscles and bones but we are going to specifically look at the rotator cuffs as they play the largest part in a golf swing.

Rotator Cuff The rotator cuff is a network of muscles that connects the upper arm to the shoulder blade. The muscles included within this network are: the subscapularis, teres minor, supraspinatus, and infraspinatus and together they assist in stabilising the shoulder joint as well as help with arm movements. In relation to everyday life whenever you raise or rotate your arm, you are using your rotator cuff and all four muscles will be contributing to that movement. Focusing back to golf, the rotator cuff is what gives you the power in your golf swing and has in impact of the different phases as follows:

  1. The back swing, the most action is on the left-hand side with the influential and active being the subscapularis.

  2. Easy follow through, when the subscapularis and the infraspinatus muscles on the right are the most active.

  3. The late follow through of the motion once again involves the subscapularis on the right however on the left-hand side the infraspinatus is working in conjunction with the pectoral muscle to enable a smooth and easy finish the swing.


The muscles of the forearm which are fundamental to any golf grip include the flexor digiorum superficialisop, flexor digitorum profundus and the flexor pollicis longus. However, it is not just the grip the forearm muscles have an influence on, working alongside the triceps and the wrist, the forearm is an essential part to the power of the swing at impact with the ball. Without strong forearms and triceps, a golfer cannot keep their wrists flat through impact and therefore will not be able to release the club properly or accurately through the impact zone.

Lower Body

The primary lower-body muscles that are used to support the body throughout both the swing and also giving you the ability to be able to walk around the course are the quadriceps muscles, your hamstrings and the glutes.


There are three muscles which make up the glutes and they are: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus and they are key in any hip rotation within the swing as well as in the extension of your hips in the follow through. Having the ability to be able to tighten these muscles enables the provision of solid foundation in being able to keep the body still, both prior and during the swing. The predominant of the glute muscles is the gluteus maximus, as it is not only is it the largest but it is also the most superficial (closest to the surface of the skin). It has been proven that it has an instrumental part in maintaining a proper balanced position. However, breaking it down further shows us that influence the glute muscles have when it come. Starting at the forward swing the gluteus maximus is the most active. Following this, during the acceleration phase the gluteus maximus is once again of the most active muscles in the lower body. As the swing moves into the easy follow through phase the gluteus medius takes a more predominant role on the right-hand side of the body and continues this through o the late follow through when it again is one most active muscle on the right-hand side of the body.

The legs play a vital role in a good golf swing because they keep the solid posture of the golfer intact throughout the swing. The two main areas of focus and contribution come from the quadriceps which help the transmit power through the ball and through the turn of the hips and the hamstrings which help create the base of the golfer and them in place.

Quadriceps (quads) The quads are made up of four large, strong and incredibly important muscles, not only for when you are playing golf but in everyday life. The muscles which make up the quadriceps are: rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and vastus intermedius. The contribution that they have to your golf swing include:

  1. The forward swing when on the left hand the vastus lateralis, the muscle closest to the outside of your leg and the adductors which are on the in the inside of the thigh are used the most.

  2. The easy follow through when the vastus lateralis is still very active on the left-hand side, however this time it is working with the hamstrings.

  3. The Late follow through is again here the vastus laterals is the most active and contributing the most out of the quadricep muscles to the motion involved.

Hamstring Similar to the quadriceps the hamstrings are made up of more than one muscle. However, the hamstrings are based on the posterior side the of the body only include three muscles which are: the biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus. As mentioned previously the hamstring help to create the sound structure of the golfer's position and therefore it is unsurprising that of all the lower body muscles, we have covered they are involved in all of the phases of the swing.

  1. The back swing, here they are especially active in the right leg.

  2. Forward swing, they have slightly less involvement are the second most active.

  3. Acceleration, working with the gluteus maximus on the left-hand side the bicep femoris which is the closest the outside of the body is the most active.

  4. Late follow through, although not as much as at other stages but still contributing on the left-hand side is the Semimembranosus.

Often seen as a less in vigorous sport and one that many people take up to play in their spare time as a way to either get a break from the sport they play or relax. This short and brief insight shows that actually whilst playing you can and often are putting your body and its muscles through a workout. So regardless of how little or how often you play, make sure you look after those muscles both before and after by stretching or getting a pre/ post massage.

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